Distance by Matthew Brennan

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washington rocky beach with driftwoodOn the morning after the earthquake in Japan, I walked out along a beach on the far side of the Pacific. I wanted to stand in the potential of harm’s way, feel closer than the breadth of this shared water allowed. There was a tsunami advisory in effect for the Washington coast until the afternoon, but as far as I could see – as I expected – the wind was driving the tides more than the distant quake. Steady and strong, the wind whipped in from the sea, which, it appeared, was routine. The sea-grass in the dunes above the tideline was uniformly bent, pointing inland, northward as if growing away from the sun, giving it the appearance of an aging man’s hair carefully combed and slicked back. The wind’s persistence had smoothed out the black sand and tiny, polished stones, the beach dotted with white shells and larger solitary stones, each with a shadow of leeward sand.

Down along the waterline where I walked, the arriving waves deposited lines of seafoam, which clung there on the beach, quivering in the gusting wind until a clump let go, swirling away like bubbles blown from a child’s wand and leaving a trail up the sand until it was gone. The sea was gray – beneath a gray, rainless sky – with a hint of green where it deepened. Waves broke against a stone breakwater and the wood-beam pilings of an absent pier.

Rain, I knew, was coming later in the night, but there would be no larger wave. Walking along the threshold of a higher tide, I looked across the deposits of these regular waves and picked up two shards of sea-glass, polished over time and no longer shiny, nor clear. Standing against the violence of the weather, I looked out to sea and tried to imagine a nation beyond the curve, in peril – in chaos, in darkness – and its people awaking now to loss. But I couldn’t. I was cold, and there was a blanket and fire and a pot of coffee awaiting me at home. I could see no farther than the confluence of the gray-white sky and the gray-green sea where other waves were breaking over a distant shoal, and could feel only the wind.

Note: This pieces was originally published in Sunrise from Blue Thunder: A Pirene’s Fountain Anthology.


matthew brennan Matthew Brennan is a writer, editor, and translator from the Pacific northwest. His work has received numerous awards and fellowships, and more than sixty of his short fictions and literary poetry translations have been published in journals, including The Citron Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Emerge Literary Journal, The Los Angeles Review, and Superstition Review. He earned his MFA in fiction at Arizona State University. http://matthewbrennan.net


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